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THOMAS ^HUGHES, Barrister, 


(Being a Speech delivered by him at Exeter Hall on the 
29th of January, 1863.; 






Ths Executive Comittee of the Emancipation Society having 
done me the honour of proposing to print and circulate the sub- 
joined speech, spoken at their meeting at Exeter Hall, I cannot 
allow it to go forth to my countrymen generally in this new 
form without adding a few words. I would, in the first place, 
warn any reader who has not studied the American question, 
not to take this speech as a full statement of the case against 
the Confederate States. On reading it through I see the many 
gaps and weak places, but though it would be easy enough to 
fill them up now, I cannot think that it would be honest. If the 
speech is to be printed, let it be the speech as it was spoken, 
without addition or alteration. I have therefore simply taken 
the report in the Morning Star as it stood, adding in some half 
dozen places a word or two to make the sense clear, which 
words, to the best of my remembrance, were actually used at 
the time. 

There are many sides of the question which it was impos- 
sible even to touch upon in the time allowed to a speaker. The 
treachery of the Southern leaders during Buchanan's presi- 
dency—the methods by which they have ruled the Union for 
forty years — their different readings of the Constitution at 

different times, putting upon its provisions whatever meaning 
suited them for the particular occasion, and forcing that mean- 
ing upon the North — the deliberate insolence with which they 
have carried out the policy of governing (as Randolph put it), 
" not by our black slaves at the South, but through your white 
slaves of the North" — their avowed designs on Mexico, Cuba, 
and other possessions of neighbouring powers — the ever in- 
creasing degradation, morally and intellectually, of the whole 
black, and two-thirds of the white population of the Southern 
States — none of these matters could be touched on, and yet 
without touching upon them, how could a speaker do justice to 
a resolution, declaring that the Southern States are not entitled 
to the sympathy of England? 

"We know what we are doing ; we have conquered you once, 
and we will conquer you again. Ay, sir, we will drive you to 
the wall, and when we have you there once more we mean to 
keep you there, and nail you down like bad money." So said 
John Randolph the slave-owner at the time of the Missouri 
compromise, forty years ago, and the spirit of those words has 
shone through all Southern policy from that day to this. True 
to his creed, the slave-owner is fighting for his old empire, and 
the freemen of the North for their independence, and that 
independence can never be wrought out till slavery is put down. 

This is no place to argue the matter, but that is the truth ; 
and no man who so believes has a right to shrink from stating 
his belief at such a time as the present. I can only say for 
myself, that for many years I have been deeply interested in 
American politics, and have given all the time I could spare to 
the study of them, and am more and more convinced every day 
of the truth of the views here put forth. 

And now I would just ask those Englishmen who sympathize 
with the Southern States — who uphold their cause as the cause 
of freedom — whether they have ever fairly considered what is 
to be the end of the present civil war if that cause should 
triumph? I will give up all other points. I will admit for the 
sake of bringing the question to a simple issue, that the people 
of the North do not care about slavery, that they despise the 
negro, and ill treat him ; that they have freed the slaves in the 
district of Columbia, have acknowledged Liberia and Hayti, 
have accorded the right of search to our cruisers, hanged a 
slave captain, voted £20,000,000 compensation for the slaves 
in Missouri, and proclaimed freedom to the slaves in rebel 
States, simply as war measures, and to throw dust into the eyes 
of England. I take my stand simply on the one point, which 
surely no one who has looked into the matter at all will ques- 
tion, that the North are pledged to oppose the extension of 
slavery beyond its present limits, and that the South are 
pledged to its extension into all new territories. This they 
cannot deny in the face of resolution after resolution, moved in 
the Senate, the House of Representatives, and at convention 
after convention by the Southern leaders, declaring, " that the 
Federal constitution guarantees slavery in the territories;" " that 
in all new territories the institution of slavery as it exists in the 
Southern States shall be recognised and protected by Congress/' 
They cannot deny it, in the face of the written and spoken words 
)f these leaders, who have pledged themselves one and all to 
their newly-found corner-stone. 

On the other hand, the Chicago platform (on which Mr. Lin- 
coln was elected President, and from which he at any rate has 
never swerved) declares in clause 7, " that the new dogma, that 

the constitution, of its own force, carries slavery in any or all 
of the territories of the United States, is a dangerous political 
heresy, * * revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the 
peace and harmony of the country;" and in clause 8, u that the 
normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that 
of freedom, * * and we deny the authority of Congress, of a 
territorial legislature, or of any individuals to give legal exis- 
tence to slavery in any territory of the United States." Thus, 
in what may fairly be called the charters of each side, the issue 
of the extension of slavery into new territories is brought to the 

Now when Englishmen sympathize with the Southern States, 
and wish them success in this war, do they mean that the ex- 
tension of slavery over half a continent is a matter which is 
not worth considering ? or, have they any reason for saying 
that the South has given up this point, and will not carry 
slavery into new territories if successful? No public man, no 
public assembly of any one of the Southern States, has ever 
hinted such a conclusion. They have left us in no doubt as to 
what they mean ; "I want Cuba," said the senator for Missouri, 
just before secession, u Potosi, Tamanlipas, and one or two 
other Mexican states, and I want them all for the same reason* 
for the planting and spreading of slavery. Yes, I want these 
countries for the spread of slavery. I would spread the bless- 
ings of slavery, like the religion of our Divine Master, to the 
uttermost ends of the earth." " Slavery must expand," writes 
Governor Call, of Florida, in February, 1861, "with the 
extension of the white race, into every region congenial to 
its nature and possible to its labour. It cannot be confined to 
its present limits. Dire and uncontrollable necessity will impel 

the master and the slave to cut their way through every barrier, 
or perish together in the attempt. The consequences of con- 
finement are too terrible to be borne." These are plain bold 
statements of Southern aims, and they are not the men to go 
back from them. Southern success involves this at any rate, 
whatever else it may include. 

Nothing less than this can come of the success of the South, 
and against such an ending I will protest wherever and when- 
ever I can ; as an Englishman, as a man, as a Christian. 

War and bloodshed, blazing towns and villages, and starving 
people, are fearful sights. Every man must shrink from them, 
must long to see an end to them. But there are times when 
nations have to endure these things, when the stake at issue is 
so precious that the truest men and the gentlest women are the 
foremost to nerve their hearts to brave all miseries, to undergo 
all sacrifices, so that it be not lost. The present contest in 
America is of this kind. " Either slavery dies now for ever on 
the American continent, so that a slaveholder will be to the 
coming generations as fanciful and traditional a figure as a Red 
Indian in his war paint, or he will govern the continent from 
the Canada line to Mexico." So says one of the first living 
Americans, speaking the simple and obvious truth, as it seems 
to me. Therefore, I believe that a premature peace, brought 
about by the late Southern successes, and the slavery dry-rot 
in the Northern democratic party, would be the greatest 
calamity which could happen to America and the world. I call 
any peace premature which shall not at least secure the Mis- 
sissippi boundary, and shut up slavery within the Gulf States. 
Nothing but physical and financial exhaustion will bring the 
South to these terms. The other alternative is, a break up of 


the Free States, and the speedy conversion of the whole re- 
public, except New England, into a great confederacy, ruled by 
a fierce and proud oligarchy, and with slavery for its corner- 
stone. How will England like standing in a few years face to 
face with such a power as this ? 

Such are the views which we hold as to the issues of the 
war in 'America. If they are wrong, let us hear why. We 
look in vain in the leading papers which advocate the cause of 
the South, and yet declare that they hate slavery, for any 
reasonable and temperate statement of what end they hope to 
see. We meet no one in society holding their views who will 
face the question fairly. It only remains for us, at the risk of 
any amount of abuse and misrepresentation, to force this question 
home to all our countrymen in the best way we can, and to 
prove if we can — and we firmly believe that we can do so — that 
the great bulk of the British nation holds with us. 


Mr. Thomas Hughes, said : Ladies and Gentlemen, — I am very 
happy to be here to meet you this evening. It must be a great 
satisfaction to every man who believes as I do, to find that this 
question, as to what is the real issue in America, is coming out more 
clearly and distinctly everywhere. The question which in England 
is now coming up clearer and sharper every day is, " which is the side 
of freedom ?" That is the only question which an Englishman has 
to ask himself; and that is the question which is asked now of this 
nation. It has been within the last fortnight answered by the Times. 
(Cheers, and groans for the Times.) Allow me to suggest, ladies and 
gentlemen, that as our time is limited, and as each speaker has only 
twenty minutes allowed him to say all that he has to say in, there is 
no time for all this applause. I shall be very much obliged to you 
if, at any rate while I am speaking, you will be kind enough to 
suppress your cheering and give me the time to say what I have to 
say. Again I say, ladies and gentlemen, that the issue has been 
fairly taken by the Times newspaper. I hold the article in my hand 
of Monday, the 19th of this month, in which the Times says, " The 
great mind of England is deeply impressed with the conviction of 
the truth of all this ;" — I leave out some sentences which are not 
material — " that the cause of the South gallantly defending itself 
against the cruel and desolating invasions of the North is the cause 
f freedom." (Hisses.) Now, ladies and gentlemen, that is the 
point upon which we wish to take issue this evening. Let us see 
whether the voice of England supports that statement. (ISTo, no.) 
In the same article there are some remarks to which the speaker who 
preceded me referred — some facetious remarks and some bitter 
taunts — calling us who are here present to address you this evening 


a set of struggling obscurities. Well, gentlemen, as the speaker 
before me accepted that, so I accept it. I am ready to admit, though 
the sight before me to-night makes me doubt it — that we may be few 
and obscure ; but that is all the more reason for us to speak out what 
we believe. I believe there is not a man here this evening who 
won't join with me in endorsing the words of the great American 
poet of freedom — 

They are slaves who will not choose 

Scorn and hatred and abuse, 

Eather than in silence shrink 

From the truth they needs must think ; 

They are slaves who will not be 

In the right with two or three. 

My object to-night, then, will be to maintain before you that the 
cause of the South is not the cause of freedom, but that it is the 
cause of the most degrading and hateful slavery that has been before 
the world for thousands of years. I shall endeavour as much as 
possible to take with me your judgment and understanding. I do 
not want to excite your passions. I don't want to state anything 
which shall do that, and I ask you therefore to give me a patient and 
quiet hearing, because the facts that I shall have to put before you 
will take at least as much time as this meeting can possibly give to 

I propose first to take a few of the leading Southern statesmen, to 
show you what they have done in times past, what have been their 
acts, and what their words, and then to ask you to say whether they 
are the sort of people who are in favor of freedom. 

The first representative man of the Southern States is Mr. Jefferson 
Davis. Mr. Jefferson Davis is a planter — a Southern planter — who 
was educated at West Point. The first public act of his life, as far as 
I know, was that he raised a regiment and went to the Mexican war. 
The Mexican war I believe to have been as atrocious a war as has 
ever been waged in this world. However, be that as it may, he 
came back from that war; and what was the next public act of his 
life? You know very well that a great disgrace has fallen upon 
many of the States of America because they repudiated their 
public debts. Now, the next act of Mr. Jefferson Davis's 
life was this, that when there was a man — Mr. Walker — who 
came forward for the governorship of Mississippi upon the 
platform of making the State pay its debts, he was opposed by Mr. 
Jefferson Davis who advocated repudiation of the debt. No doubt 
in one sense Mr. Jefferson Davis was then the advocate of freedom 
— the freedom of not paying debts ; but that is a freedom which I 


don't think any Englishman will endorse. After the Mexican war 
the United States got a vast tract of new territory, and the question 
was, what was to be done with it ? Then there arose a great struggle 
between the free-soil party and the slave party. The free-soil party 
said '* slavery shall not be brought into these territories." The slave 
party said that any man should go where he liked with his slaves. 
Upon that question Mr. Jefferson Davis came out in 1850 in the 
debate upon what was called Bell's compromise — a compromise that 
was endeavoured to be made by legalizing a doctrine called "squatter's 
sovereignty," which I may explain to you if I have time. Upon 
that he said in the Senate : — " Never will I consent to any com- 
promise which shall forbid slaves from being taken into the territories 
at the option of their owners." On the 23rd July, 1850, he moved — 
" That ail laws existing in the said territory (California) which deny 
or obstruct the right of any citizen to remove or reside in such 
territory with any species of property legally held in any State of 
the Union, be and are hereby declared to be, null and void." He was 
then appointed Secretary at War to Mr. President Pierce, and as 
Secretary at War, and throwing the force of the Federal Government 
into the struggle in Kansas, he sent troops, turned out the free 
legislators, and had it not been for John Brown, and such men as he, 
slavery would have been established in Kansas by Mr. Jefferson 
Davis.* Then came the question of the re- opening of the slave 
trade; and, whatever may be said in England, I can prove to you 
that one of the things that is as clear as the sun at noonday is, that 
the Southern slaveholders, whatever they may say now, have been 
for years in favour of the re-opening of the African slave trade. 
Well, upon this occasion in 1859 to which I am alluding, Mr. Jeffer- 
son Davis, though he declined to vote in the State of Mississippi for 
the re-opening as far as that State was concerned, for fear lest 
Mississippi should be swamped by too much of a good thing, yet 
carefully guarded himself, and said, "I have no coincidence of 
opinion with those who prate of the inhumanity of the slave trade." 
In 1860, when secession was imminent, he moved in the Senate, by 
way of an amendment to the constitution of the United States : — 

"That it shall be declared by amendment of the constitution that 
property in slaves, recognised as such by the local laws of any State, 

* In 1855 Mr. Jefferson Davis advocated obtaining Cuba at any price, 
and in 1858 the protection of slavery throughout the territories. In 
short, he is openly pledged to every measure adverse to freedom for the 
last thirty years. 


shall be on the same footing as any other species of property, and not 
subject to be divested or impaired by the local laws of any other State." 

The meaning of that is, that the Southern slaveholder might take his 
slaves into New England, and that even there they should not be inter- 
fered with. Now, I have taken you shortly and rapidly through the 
career of this representative of the Southern States, and I say that 
there is not an act of his life which has not been opposed to the 
sacred cause of freedom. 

Mr. A. H. Stephens, of Georgia, as you have been told, is the 
Vice-President of the Confederate States, a thoughtful man — one 
of the best of Southern slaveholders. Let us see what his opinions 
are. This is a portion of a speech of his in 1857 on the slave 
trade : — 

" It is plain that unless the number of the African stock be increased 
we have not the population, and might as well abandon the race with 
our brethren of the North in the colonisation of the territories." 

I give you the very words of the celebrated statement of Mr. 
Stevens which has only been referred to by the previous speakers. 
He says : — 

'• Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its 
foundations are laid, its corner stone rests, upon the great truth that 
the negro is not equal to the white man, that slavery — subordination to 
the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. It is upon this, 
as I have stated, our social fabric is firmly planted ; and I cannot permit 
myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of this 
principle throughout the civilised and enlightened world. This stone, 
which was rejected by the first builders, is become the chief stone of the 
corner in our new edifice. It is the Lord's doing, and marvellous in our 

Now, I will add nothing to that but this, that every man who 
believes, as I do, that there is another corner-stone for the life of 
nations, must believe that that corner-stone has always been the 
great enemy of slavery — aye, and will fall upon it wherever it is 
found, in America or anywhere else, and crush it to atoms. 

If my time were longer I would say a little about Messrs. Mason 
and Slidell and other Southern leaders, but they are not important 
enough to be brought forward before this meeting when time presses. 
I will therefore only tell you this, that Mr. Mason, who is over here 
in England, going about in society and preaching the cause of the 
South, was the author of the fugitive Slave Act. (Cries of " He is 
here.") I don't know whether he is in the room or not. (Cries of 
" Turn him out.") If he is, I would say, i; Don't turn him out." 


I have now a few words to say on the point, whether or not 
this Southern Confederacy, which we are told is the cause of free- 
dom, is likely to reopen the African slave trade. I will give 
you a few facts which I gather from documents which are as open 
to any of you as they are to me. In 1857, the Governor of 
South Carolina, in his address to the Legislature, said, " Whatever 
our position, we must have cheap labour, which can be obtained but 
in one way — by the re-opening of the African slave-trade." Now I 
say this — and I don't believe that anybody can deny it, though I am 
not so certain of it as I am of the other facts, because I did not see 
the original draft of the Confederate constitution ; but I tell you 
what I believe to be undoubted. It has been stated at any rate by 
many Americans who ought to know, that in the original draft of 
that constitution the reopening of the slave trade was provided for, 
and that it was taken out merely as a sop to England. I tell you 
why I believe so. Here is Mr. Spratt, of South Carolina — very well 
known in America, though perhaps many of you have not heard of 
him. As a member of the convention which took South Carolina 
out of the Union he said — " We all know that the constitution of 
the Confederate States is made for the day — just for the time being 
— a mere tub thrown out to the whale, to amuse and entertain the 
public mind for a time." That is the admission of the South Caro- 
linian representative in a protest against the excision of the clause 
for reopening of the African trade. Then comes the Baltimore con- 
vention in 1858. At that convention the question of slavery was 
brought on, and Mr. Goodwin, of Georgia, said, "I am an African 
trade man," and then he goes on to say: — 

" I want the gentlemen of this convention to visit my plantation, and 
I say again — if they come to see me — I will show them as fine a let of 
negroes of the pure African blood as they will see anywhere. If it is 
right for us to go to Virginia and buy a negro, and pay $2,000 for him, 
it is equally right to go to Africa and pay $50." 

I won't go through the speeches of the other gentlemen at that con- 
vention — a very important convention it was — but 1 will ju3t read 
to you the resolutions which they passed. The first was " that slavery 
is right, and that being right, it could not be wrong to import slaves." 
The second was to the effect that it is expedient and proper that the 
African slave trade should be reopened, and that this convention 
will lend its influence to promote that end. Gentlemen, 1 won't 
detain you further, except to say that in 1859 — the year before 
secession, at Vicksburg, in Mississippi — the States Convention 
passed a resolution for the reopening of the African slave trade by a 
large majority. One more fact. In the Arkansas State Legislature 


in the same ye?»,r the motion disapproving the reopening of the 
African slave trade was lost by a majority of twenty-one.* 

One word more as to the state of things just before secession. Every 
man in America, especially the men concerned in politics, saw that a 
great split would come unless something could be done. Accordingly, 
Congress appointed committees of the Senate and Legislature to 
consider what could be done, by way of altering the constitution, so 
as to keep the Union together. These committees broke up hope- 
lessly, and came to no conclusion. The majority sent in a resolution, 
and the minority sent in a resolution ; but from the beginning to the 
end of their proceedings there was one thing, and one thing only, 
considered — slavery. And to show you the temper of the South at 
that time — which temper has not been improved since by the war — ■ 
Mr. Adams, the present Minister to this country — the son and 
grandson of eminent men — a man as distinguished for his moderation 
as any man in the United States — Mr. Adams, being a member of 
the Committee of the House of Representatives, and anxious by any 
means he could to retain the Union, signed at first the resolution 
of the majority. Finding, however, that no concession would do for 
those men, he sent in a special report and protest alone, one part of 
which was : — 

" That no form of adjustment will be satisfactory to the recusant 
States which does not incorporate into the constitution of the United 
States a recognition of the obligation to protect and extend slavery, and 
to that I will never consent." 

Once more, I have in my hand all the ordinances of the Secession 
States, but I won't trouble you with them because my time is just 
up. But I will say this — that I have read those documents, and I 
tell you that not one, nor two, but all of them take up the ground, 
and that ground only, for seceding — that slavery was in danger and 
likely to be put down in the Southern States. 

Now, what are the people? I have given you specimens of 
their leading men. I have given you specimens of the public 
acts of that Government which we are told to recognise as a 
Government in favour of freedom. I am sorry to say the people 
are quite worthy of the Government and of their leaders. What 

* The opinion of a majority of Northern Americans as to the doings 
and intentions of the South in the matter of reopening the slave trade, 
may be gathered from clause 9 of the Chicago platform, (1860) which 
runs " That we brand the recent reopening of the African slave trade, 
under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial 
power, as a crime against humanity, and a burning shame to our country 
and our age : and we call on Congress to take prompt and efficient 
measures for the total and final suppression of that execrable traffic." 


said their chief judge in that accursed judgment which he pro- 
nounced in the great slave case, known as the Dred Scott case? 
" That the African race are so much inferior to white men that 
they have no rights, and may justly be reduced to slavery for 
the white man's benefit." That is a decision of the chief judge of 
the highest court in the United States, a man who is at the head 
of the legal body there; and that principle seems to have been 
ground into the Southern portion of the American people. You have 
all read what has been written by the special correspondent of the 
Times newspaper on this question. What does Mr. Eussell say 
about the Southern people? That in every city dogs are employed 
to catch runaway slaves. He and all other trustworthy witnesses 
describe both the people and the Government to be as deliberately 
hostile to freedom as any men that ever lived on the face of this earth. 
Of course in a meeting of this sort, and in twenty minutes, you cannot 
prove your case, but I only say this — I challenge any friend of the 
South to name one single leader there who is not pledged over and 
over again to slavery. I ask them to name one public act, one single 
Southern Confederate State, which is in favour of human freedom. 

Well, I, an Englishman, find such a case as this. I, an English- 
man, an inhabitant of a country of free thought, of free words, and 
of free men, am asked to endorse such a state of things. I am asked 
to endorse a people who do these acts, who have expressed these 
opinions, and to say that their cause is the cause of freedom. I say 
on the contrary, as I said when I first stood up before you, that the 
cause of the South is the most hateful, the most enslaving, the most 
debasing tyranny that has been on the face of the earth for a thousand 

During this American contest one American has been abused, and 
I think more unjustly dealt by than any other man in the United 
States ; and the cruel and unfair abuse of Americans by a portion of 
the press of this country accounts for the bitter feeling in America 
against England. In the same Times article from which I read to 
you just now, I find this statement :— u The stock humbug of the 
Northern people is a pretence of caring about slavery. Mr. Cassius 
Clay is much mistaken if he thinks that his neighbours could suppose 
that he is a real emancipator for emancipation's sake, or that he has 
any other object in view except that of deluding Europe with fine 
words." Such words as these are enough to make any people 
bitter ; for a more unjust, a more cruel comment on a public man 
was never put forward. Now, Mr. Cassius Clay has said many 
foolish things about this country ; but just let me say a word or two 
about his history. He was born in Kentucky — a slave state. When 
he went to New Eugland to be educated, he looked about him to see 
what was going on there, and the difference between that country 


and his own struck him, and made him think. He went back to his 
own state of Kentucky ; and what did he do there ? When he saw 
the state of things on one side of the Ohio — magnificent cultivation — 
but on the other side saw desolation and slavery, he said to himself, 
I will see if I cannot put an end to this, so far as I am concerned ; 
and he emancipated every slave he had. And what did he do then? 
He went about Kentucky, the most dangerous state to act such a 
part in in all America, and with his life in his hand he lectured 
against slavery. He was attacked in his lecture room several times. 
At one time four men attacked him, and after a desperate fight he 
was left for dead on the floor. This man, who has emancipated 
every slave of his, who has been cut to pieces for the sake of 
emancipation, is the man about whom our great paper says : — 
" Cassius Clay is much deceived in his own imagination il he thought 
his neighbours could imagine that he was a real emancipator for 
emancipation's sake." I have done. I will only put the case to you 
as it has been put by the great anti-slavery poet, Mr. Lowell, in 
his poem called " Jonathan to John ; or an address to England :" — 

We know we've got a cause, John, 

That's honest, right, and true ; 
We thought 'twould win applause, John, 

If nowhere else, from you. 
The South cry poor men down, John, 

And all men up cry we, 
Black, yellow, white, and brown, John, 

Now which is your idee ? 


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